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Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
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With a name as long and ridiculous sounding as Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, this movie is easy to dismiss, and I initially wanted to avoid it, especially after looking at the commercials, which made it look like a silly movie about robots and yet another special effects extravaganza.  When I went to go see the movie, I found that my initial preconceptions were completely wrong.  The film is a technical achievement, sure, but all that computer imagery is given a look that almost borders on art.  The colors are filtered out through a sepia tone that gives the film an almost dreamlike silvery feel like that of someone's fond memories or like you're watching and old film from the 40s.  The movie itself pays homage to many different sources.  The dark, towering cities with search lights everywhere feels like film noir like Dark City or Batman.  The giant robots and ray guns come from many classic camp serials like Buck Rogers or Superman.  And the stylized, do anything combat planes are ingenious products of the movie's creators.  The characters even look, dress, and act like they belong in the period.  Unlike Dick Tracy, Sky Captain is exceedingly adept at portraying its vision and time period.  Polly Perkins very well could be Lois Lane.  However if this movie were only visuals and homages, it still would be a frightfully shallow affair.  Thankfully, this is not the case, despite what some detractors may claim.  Sky Captain thoroughly made me feel like I was watching some of the classic adventure movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark or 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea or Island at the Top of the World.  Sky Captain is, in essence, a children's film that can entertain adults and that doesn't pander to kids like many family films do.  This film has many good messages imbedded within.  The images of the ominous Totenkopf attacking cities with giant flying machines has eerie echoes of World War II.  The evil scientist fancies himself as God and messes around with nature.  However, the stunning ending reveals that the evil villain isn't what you might think.  All these messages never get ponderous, however, and never get in the way of exciting action sequences or great characterization.  The dogfighting sequences are gripping, and more importantly, never bombastic.  The characters are delightful and memorable and the banter between the two main characters leads to some truly hilarious moments.  The evil woman in black is probably one of the coolest villains ever created, and Frankie is such a calm and collected commander that you can't help but feel how much she kicks butt.  Overall, I feel that Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is one of the most underrated movies of all time, let alone 2004.  It is true that the movie relies on some contrivances and runs on automatic in a few spots.  But compare this movie to overblown special effects extravaganzas like Attack of the Clones or even the Matrix movies, and you'll clearly see how much more class, fun, vision, and restraint this movie has.  Grade: A

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